what is a facet joint injection

What is a Facet Joint Injection?

Facet Joint Injections are anti-inflammatory injections to the facet joints or zygapophysial joints. These are joints that are part of the spine’s framework. These are tiny projections from one vertebra that connect to similar projections from another vertebra.

These projections may become inflamed due to acute or chronic conditions. For facet joints located in the lumbar area or lower back, the pain can start as lower back pain which then radiates to the buttocks and upper thighs. This pain can get worse when you stand or bend backward. 

For inflammation of cervical facet joints, the pain usually starts in the neck and then this radiates across the entire neck and to the shoulder. The symptoms worsen when you try to turn your head from side to side or when you look up.

Facet Joint Injection Procedure: What to Expect

The actual procedure takes only a few minutes, but you should expect to be in the doctor’s office for at least an hour. This accounts for the time that you will need to talk to your doctor as he explains the procedure and what you can expect from it.  

You may also need to fill up and sign consent forms. The nurse or medical assistant will also need to position you properly for the procedure. You may also need to spend a few minutes in the recovery room for observation after the injections.

The nurse will have you lying on your stomach for the procedure. Your oxygen levels, as well as your blood pressure, will be checked and monitored throughout the entire procedure. There will be an x-ray technician, a nurse, and a doctor in the room with you.

The skin in the injection site is cleaned with an antiseptic solution before the injections. The needles will be inserted within the joint capsule and a small amount of steroids will be injected in each affected joint.

Will You Feel Pain?

The injection uses anti-inflammatory or steroid medicine like Celestone combined with a local anesthetic like Bupivacaine. The procedure begins with the injection of a small amount of anesthetic. You will feel a little pinch, and then you can expect a slight burning as the anesthesia starts to numb your skin.

Once the skin is numb, your doctor will then inject the steroid medication, and you can expect to feel a bit of pressure, but not a lot of pain. If at any point in the procedure you feel any pain, you need to inform your doctor, so he can then inject more local anesthetic as necessary.

Will You Be Asleep During the Procedure?

You can choose to be sedated during the procedure. You can opt for local anesthetic only, or you can opt for IV sedation. The latter can ensure that you will be comfortable. Sedation can range from drowsiness to no memory of the entire procedure. Your choice will depend on your comfort level.

However, if you choose to be sedated, you must avoid drinking or eating for 6 hours before the procedure, and you need to have someone drive you home afterward to ensure your safety. If you need to drink any medication within those 6 hours, you can do so; provided that you take it with only a sip of water.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Shortly after your facet joint injections, you will notice that your pain may be reduced considerably or disappeared altogether. This is actually due to the anesthesia injected, and this can only last for a few hours.

Your pain will likely return once the effects of the local anesthetic disappear. You will also feel some soreness for a couple of days, but thereafter, you will soon notice some pain relief after the procedure.

You should consider taking it easy for a day or so after the procedure. Let your body heal because the injection site will feel sore. Avoid strenuous activities, and stick to activities that your body can tolerate. You may also need to apply ice to the injection site.

You can go back to work after the procedure as long as you take it easy, and your work wouldn’t involve strenuous activities. You may have to avoid working for a couple of days if the procedure was a bit complicated. You can expect your doctor or nurse to discuss this with you.

How Long Does the Effect Last?

Usually, you can feel immediate relief due to the local anesthetic, but this relief wears off in a few hours or so. However, the steroids will start working in a couple of days or so, and the relief they offer can last for some time. The long-term effect, however, varies from one person to another and cannot be ascertained definitively.

Can You Have More Than One Injection?

What if the effects wear off and you start experiencing excruciating pain again? Can you get another injection? Yes. If the first injection was successful, and then the pain returns once again, your doctor may consider giving you another injection as long as the relief lasted for a considerable length of time.

The frequency of injection and the number of injections may vary from one patient to another, and the doctor will have to assess this and discuss this with you.

Can Facet Joint Injections Help You?

The effect of these injections varies from one patient to another, so it is considerably difficult to predict how it can help you or if it will be of use to you. The spine has several pain generators, so the effect of this procedure varies widely. However, patients with lumbar and cervical pain experience relief from these injections.

If you have any questions regarding this procedure, contact us today for information or schedule an appointment.

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